Volunteers work around the clock as open enrollment deadline looms

 

NEW YORK — In most states, the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act closes in less than two weeks. This year, it is only half as long than it was under the Obama administration.

Public health advocates told CBS News the shorter time frame was just one of many new challenges, but volunteers have aggressively worked to overcome them.

"We're using every vehicle possible to get the word out."

 

One of those people working what seem to be endless hours is Elizabeth Colvin. She runs a program in Austin, Texas that enrolls people in the Affordable Care Act. Her group of volunteers are just some of the many who are working overtime in person, over the phone and online.

Colvin told CBS News, the federal government used to provide funding to help offset some of the costs, but not anymore.

This year, the Trump administration slashed the advertising budget for Obamacare by 90 percent and funding for counselors who sign up consumers by nearly 50 percent.

It also shortened the enrollment period from 90 to 45 days.

A spokesman for Health and Human Services said the cuts reflect a decline in A.C.A. participation. Social media campaigns and grass roots efforts have picked up the slack.

According to new statistics, 2.8 million Americans have enrolled so far this year compared to 2.1 million this time last year. That's an increase of 33 percent.

Colvin stated she believes the number would be even higher if not for widespread confusion.

"They don't realize that the Affordable Care Act is still the law. They don't realize financial help is available," she said.

With the deadline looming, volunteers are now making a final push to get people covered.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Marketplace is December 15.